90 percent of pitchers are using spray-on sunscreen, Buchholz-style

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Jeff Passan picks up the thread Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris pulled last week regarding Clay Buchholz’s start against the Jays and accusations that he was doctoring the ball:

Two veteran pitchers and one source close to the Red Sox told Yahoo! Sports that about 90 percent of major league pitchers use some form of spray-on sunscreen – almost always BullFrog brand – that when combined with powdered rosin gives them a far superior grip on the ball … one source close to the Red Sox confirmed the team’s pitchers almost all rely on sunscreen for better grip on finicky balls, particularly in cold, bad weather.

It seems almost certain, based on what Passan’s sources are telling him, that yes, Buchholz was applying a foreign substance to the ball last week.  But it also seems certain, based on what Passan’s sources are telling him, that almost all pitchers do it and, really, no one cares.

Which I think does matter when talk about the nature of all of this. How much it matters I don’t know. If the Blue Jays were willing to look the other way — and they were, probably because their pitchers do the same damn thing — I’m not sure where the mandate to start inspecting every pitcher’s arm comes from, even if applying Bull Frog to the ball is a violation of a clear rule.

Of course, I’ve been trying to tell people for years that, while against the rules, players using PEDs was maybe something more complex than anti-PED gang was willing to admit given its pervasive and open use.  Doesn’t make it right. Doesn’t make it legal. But does provide some context with which reasonable people should maybe use in order to filter their outrage and with which to determine just how sharp those pitchforks should be.

So: any of those folks willing to take the “I don’t care if everyone is doing it and it’s ‘just part of the game,’ Buchholz is a cheating cheater who cheats” tack here?  I’m not gonna hold my breath for it, but please, let me know if you feel that way.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.